16 November 2009

Trying Something New

So, long-time reader of this blog will know that for me, the first 7ish chapters of a novel usually fly past. It's when I hit chapter 8 that I hit trouble. (I can't find a post to back this up, but trust me: it's true. It's also the reason why I have so many first-seven-chapters of novels littering my harddrive o.0)

How Not To Take Over The World, the spoofy fantasy novel that I'm writing for NaNoWriMo, is running fit and true to form: the first 8 chapters flew past in a blur of giggles and glee... And then I hit chapter 9.

Slam. Right into that wall.

*pokes it*

So, what do I do when all the impetus that keeps my work going come screeching to a halt? When my plot starts getting Serious and I have to actually think about keeping the characters within the bounds of the story, when I have to start saying no to random fun tangents and basically my whole self-esteem as a writing drops through the floor - Can I do this? Can I really tie all this squee together into something coherent? How can I live up to the standard of the first few chapters, which are funny?

Usually, when I write a novel, I outline thusly: I start the novel with a reasonable idea of how it will end, and some inklings as to what the midpoint change will be. I write a chapter. I get ideas, and I write the next chapter. For the first 7-8, I'm usually outlining a chapter or two ahead as the current scenes spark ideas for new ones.

Then I hit the end of act one: The Wall. Ordinarily, it's about now that the plot starts coming together, I see how things are going to fit into the storyline, and I'll outline to about the middle of the novel. As I draw closer to the middle, I'll outline about that number of chapters again further on - so I'm always say ten chapters ahead with the outline.

When I hit the middle, or just past, I'll have an outline nearly to the end anyway, so I'll usually sit down and outline all the way to the end at this point.

Note that when I say outline, I mean the Line For Scene (L4S) method: just a single sentence describing the main conflict of the scene - although sometimes I'll throw in some dialogue too if it comes to me ;)

That's how I'd usually do it; and usually, I'd struggle through the middle with none of the delight that I had in the first chapters, plodding onward because that's what my outline tells me to do. I'd finish the book, but by then I'd be sick of it, because I knew everything that was going to happen and nothing surprised me. I didn't let anything surprise me.

Which is totally contradictory to everything I've learned and know about writing. We write to have fun, we write to discover, to be surprised and delighted - and by outlining as I do, for me, it kills the joy of the spontaneity that I find in the first handful of chapters. I say "for me", because some people do outline comprehensively, and it works for them. Good on them, I say :)

But this time, I'm going to try something different. It's NaNo, after all, and setting yourself free from your usual rules and boundaries is practically in the rules.

This time, I'm going to remember everything I learned in the Think Sideways course about creating surprises that surprise even me; about 'leaving toys on the floor' as I write for my subconscious to pick up later and turn into twists and turns.

I'm also going to remember everything I'd learned recently by experience about listening to my characters. When I get stuck, I'm going to resist the temptation to plot and outline my way through it by logic; people aren't always logical, after all. Instead, I'm going to sit back, visualise my character and where they are, and ask them what they're doing.

They'll show me; they already have.

And hopefully, this will allow me to hold onto that feeling of spontaneity and delight that's seen me through the first 8 chapters - though of course, I still worry that the story will suck :D hehe.

So, NaNo. I cracked 25k yesterday, and am pretty much on target to finish 50k comfortably in the month. Who else is doing it? How are you going? What have you learned so far? And no, you can't say nothing - because every time we write, we learn something, even if it's only to never, ever use second person omniscient tense while utilising a backwards timeframe again O:) :D


Beth said...

Yeah for you, Inky! You can do this! Drop the IE and the index cards!

What I've learned? I've learned my genre niche: Humorous Speculative Fiction (emphasis on the humor and make it somewhat wry and... odd.) Or Speculative Alternate History: Beth Style


I've tried writing serious. I know I will continue to write it. But I really find joy in being goofy, in being /me/.

marieconley3 said...

Great post! I think this will work great for you! Can't wait to see the first draft done!

House 6 said...

See, it can be done! Keep writing :O)

Merc said...

Great plan, Inky! :D I'm glad to see you try this and see what happens. ;)

I have no doubt the HNOT characters will be MORE than happy to tell you what they intend to do. %-)

Yunaleska said...

You could just mislabel chapter 8, call it chapter flower or chapter daisy and thus you shouldn't get stuck for ideas! :D

Inkblot said...

Bethy - nothing wrong with humourous! I love humourous fantasy :D

Rie - I can't wait either! :)

L - It can, apparently. It's working so far, anyway.

Merc - Yeah, all except Deviran. He's annoyingly tight-lipped \:|

Yuna - rofl! Sure, I'll try that next time :D hehe

Merc said...

Coz Dev has Secrets. %-)

Inkblot said...

Apparently. *glare* *poke* Grumble.

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